Nascar racer Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime, the FBI has determined after an investigation of the placement of what appeared to be a noose in his garage at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway.
“The FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall. This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment,” Nascar said in a prepared statement. “We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.” Nascar said it continued to investigate the matter, and would offer new details at a later date.
Discovery of what was purported to be a noose came less than a month after Nascar said it would ban the Confederate flag at its events in the wake of protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis police. Wallace had called for the flag to be barred from Nascar events just days prior to the racing league’s decision to do so. Nascar said appearance of the flag was “contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.
In a call with reporters on Tuesday, Steve Phelps, president of Nascar, said, “This is the best result we could hope for,” and acknowledged there had been concern that some person approved by Nascar to be at the speedway might have done something. Given the evidence presented to officials on Sunday night, Phelps said, “We would do the same thing.”
On Monday, Phelps dismissed social-media speculation that the rope might have been placed in Wallace’s garage to generate attention. “Such an idea is “something that personally offends me. This is a terrible, terrible act that has happened,” he said at the time. The executive had said anyone who was discovered to have placed a noose in the garage to threaten or frighten Wallace would be banned from the sport for life.
Nascar has been one of the few national sports to find a way to resume operations despite the restrictions the contagion has placed on live-sports operations. Nascar has managed to stage races without fans in the stands, a boon to media companies like Fox Corp. that have rights to televise the events.
Fifteen FBI agents conducted interviews as part of a probe, according to a statement from the agency and the U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s Northern District. Investigators learned that the noose found in garage housing Wallace’s car had been in there as early as October of 2019. “Nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week,” officials said.